Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Z" is for Zenith

Yay, I did it!  This is the last day of the A-Z Challenge.  The culmination: the zenith, if you will.

I actually had most of the letters planned out before I started the A-Z Challenge, but most of them changed in the process, and always for the better.  Some of the topics I'd originally planned were downright boring to be honest.  But, Z was always blank.  I wasn't sure what to do for the last letter.  I mean, I like zebras, but not enough to write a whole blog post on them.

So, zenith it is.  The end of this wonderful madness.  I've had a great time doing this challenge.  I've met so many wonderful people, both through them coming to check out this newbie's blog and through working my way through the master list and reading theirs.

And the comments.  The comments.  My favorite part.  I loved going through each post and reading every single one, and every time I got am email notification that there was a new one I got excited.  What was most fascinating was reading people's differing opinions.  The number of points of view or thoughts on something was astounding, and it always made me think every time someone brought up a point that hadn't occurred to me.  I always tried to leave a comment if I checked out someone's blog as well, especially since I was so new to the blogging game, and I know that if they felt anything like I did when getting new comments, it was appreciated.

Reading other people's posts was also a lot of fun.  I read posts based on 80's television shows, movies, bits of written flash-fiction and poetry, books, food, and many, many others.  People were much more creative than I thought when it came to coming up with topics.

I hope that there's another A-Z Challenge next year, because this one was a blast.

How about you? What was your favorite part of the challenge?

xoxo Sarah

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Y" is for Yes


This second-to-last post for the A-Z Challenge is a little convoluted, but bear with me.  I have a stormy relationship with this word, and it's partner, No. 

Yes is something we like to hear.  We like it when people agree with us, and when they will do things for us.  It can make us feel good.

"Yes, we loved your novella and would like to offer you a contract."

"Yes, I can give you a ride because your car is in the shop."

"Yes, I will marry you."

You get the idea.

Yes is also a word that we dread hearing.

"Yes, I lost my job."

"Yes, our accounts are overdrawn."

No one likes to hear bad news, even with a yes attached, because in this case, the yes confirms something we don't want to hear.

Saying yes a lot can also feel good.  If you say yes a lot, you're someone people can count on to be there for them.  You're someone who can be depended on.  You're also someone to be taken advantage of, or someone who's a kiss ass. The trick, as I've learned, or, more accurately, am learning, is to strike a happy medium.  Sure, go ahead and agree to do things.  It's neighborly, and helpful, even to yourself.

"Yes, I can finish this manuscript."

"Yes, I will watch your cat."

"Yes, I would like that delicious dessert you brought over, thank you."

"Yes, I can be here between noon and four."  

"Yes, I can bring you to the airport at some ungodly hour."

But, be careful not to yes too much.  When you say yes, you need to put yourself first.  This is something I'm working on, as well as saying yes to more things that I would have initially shot down for whatever reason.  Maybe it's a fear of trying new things, I don't know.  But I'm going to try to say it more for things I wouldn't have in the past.  But not bungee jumping.  I draw the line there.  Piggy-backing that, I'm also going to say no more.  I will say no more often when I would have yes, which goes along with the putting myself first thing.  

In short, I will no more when I would have yessed,  and yes more when I would have noed.  And I will be happier for it.  

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"X" is for Xhaustion

I'm taking a little literary license with the letter for today for a variety of reasons: there aren't many words that begin with X, and I didn't want to waste an entry on how I've had dental x-rays done on schedule since I've had teeth; also, I'm a writer and can strategically manipulate the English language any way I damn well please.

As a new blogger, I've found the A-Z Blogging Challenge to be life-changing.  Well, blog-wise, at least.  I've made so many new friends and checked out the blogs of some amazing people, including other writers like me.  I've had some great comments on my own posts and honed my craft by writing these miniature subject essays every day.  

But, I'm xhausted.  There's no possible way I will be able to keep up this daily posting schedule after the challenge is over.  Being so new to the blogging world, I didn't have an established pattern of "I post on X day" and "I read other blogs and comment on Y day" or anything like that, so it's been tough to work in both with the challenge.  I often ended up floundering around, either not reading any blogs or commenting for a few days, or reading waaaay too many all at once.  This is something I will have to figure out as I go along with this blog.  What day do I want to post on?  I'll obviously want to read the blogs I follow and comment on them, so when will I squeeze that in?  I'll need to balance all this with my original work, which, as enjoyable as the challenge has been, has suffered.  Quite frankly, I didn't feel like writing more stuff when I'd just cranked out a blog entry or three.  

So, my question is this:  for you established bloggers out there, what do you do?  Do you have a specific day you post on?  What's a good day?  How about for reading other blogs and comments?  Please share!

p.s. Kindly follow if you're enjoying my blog! I'd love to get to 100 followers by the end of the challenge, and I try my best to check out the blogs of my commenters/followers and follow back. Thank you!  

xoxo Sarah

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bonus post! This rant brought to you by the letter "E"

Okay, not to go all Ranty McRantypants on you, but one thing (okay, a few things, really) that sets me off is bullying.  This is for a variety of reasons that I'm not going into, but here's what's up.

You all probably remember that my "E" entry was for "Erotica," right?  If you haven't read it, click here.  Okay, so you know writing smexy stories isn't anything to be ashamed of, but apparently, normal people aren't supposed to do that, or they get crucified in the media.

Here's the article:

In a nutshell, Judy Buranich has been a high school English teacher for 25 years in Pennsylvania.  She's also an author of erotic romance (again, read my "E" entry) with Ellora's Cave under the name Judy Mays.  One of her students' parents "somehow" came across her on the internet, and "outed" her to the community, calling what she does "disgusting."  This seasoned educator, who, by the way, is even called a "good teacher" in the article, could be in danger of losing her job for something that is no one's business but her own.

I am disgusted that they're even calling this news.  For one, what Judy does in her off hours and own time is her business.  She's not hurting anyone, and her ability to teach her students is unaffected.  So, where's the issue?  Are teachers supposed to be held to the ideal that they live at the school, live for their jobs, are chaste and virginal and don't have lives?  Apparently so.  It's not like she was teaching from her novels, or cranking out sex scenes on her laptop while her students were writing essays on The Scarlet Letter.  It's obvious she wanted to keep her writing separate from her school teaching, because she used a pseudonym.  Guess there's no need for that anymore.

But what I truly find "disgusting," to use the naive Ms. Apple's word, is that she and these other people have started a witch hunt and targeted a productive, well-liked member of their community.  Where I come from, that's called "bullying."  Clearly Apple and Co. want this woman out of their school system for whatever reason.  And if Ms. Apple thinks this is her 15 year old son's (I'm guessing on his age...Judy teaches 10th grade) first exposure to sex, she really needs a wake-up call.  I highly doubt he believes the stork story anymore, lady, and if he does, he's as delusional as you are.  You might want to start with, "When two people love each other very much..." and go from there.

Also, turn this around a bit.  Picture this same scenario, only the teacher is man, and he writes horror novels.  I have a feeling this news story would have been a "spotlight on a local author who also teaches at our high school" instead.  And that's sad.  

Now for what is good about the situation.  One, most of the comments in the comment section of the news article are in favor of Judy, as are the comments on WNEP 16s Facbook page.  Many comments point out common sense things that should have occurred to the people writing this drivel in the first place. Feel free to "like" them (more of a "dislike" for me, really, but there is no button for that), and comment as well.

Without good English teachers, you get shitty signs like this.
I've also heard that Judy's book sales have picked up, which is awesome, because she (possibly) might be out of a job she's had and loved for 25 years thanks to some nosy, naive busybodies.  And that's the nicest possible thing I could have called them.

If you're interested, here's the link to Judy Mays' author page.  Go buy her books and celebrate the written word, whatever its form.


**Little extra note: I just discovered that WNEP actually DELETED all of the comments, which were mainly in support of Judy.  Interesting... **

Now, back to your regularly scheduled A-Z programming.

xoxo Sarah

"W" is for Words With Friends

Seriously?  She's writing an A-Z challenge entry about an iPhone/Android app?


Bear with me.

Words With Friends.  After watching people tweet for the past month or so and keep mentioning this app, I had to see what it was.  From what I could gather, it was basically Scrabble, but you could play with anyone online.  I was right; you can even link the game to your Facebook profile and find friends to play with that way, too.

As a kid, I really enjoyed playing Scrabble.  Everything about it was awesome for someone who loved to read and write: I could show off my impressive vocabulary, expand said vocabulary, and even show up the adults around me.  

I think the only thing I hated was how the tiles would always be off-center whenever anyone bumped the board, setting off the OCD anal retentiveness in me that insisted that I played better when they were lined up.  This unfortunate aspect of playing was corrected in later versions of the game where the board had a grid-like pattern of ridges on it to hold the tiles in place.

Obviously you don't have to worry about your tiles being knocked all over the place with Words With Friends, but all the positives apply. As a writer, it's fun to see what you can make from the random letters you're given.  Will it be a simple word?  Something no one knows the meaning of?  For the record, the game doesn't accept proper nouns or gibberish words, and will tell you it's not valid if you try.  Strategy, too.  Will you try for more points using a small word to hit that triple word score, or use up more letters to get new ones on a longer one?

I love the connection aspect of it.  You can play with people you haven't seen in forever, or who don't live anywhere near you.  I have four games going on now, including one with a lovely writer friend who lives in Australia.  How amazing is that?  My husband compared it to when people used to play chess over the mail, sending their moves to each other.  I think that's an apt comparison, especially if you only check the game once or twice a day.

Do you play Words With Friends or Scrabble?  What are your favorite parts?

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"V" is for Verbosity

Ah, verbosity.  

A situation in which a writer, or author, if you will, expresses himself or herself in such a way that there may be a profound number of thoughts and representations throughout his or her work, and though it may be deemed eloquent, it may also, in some instances, but not all, be determined by some readers, but, as I mentioned, not all, to be distracting.

Did I lose you?  Sorry about that.  I think I gave myself a brain cramp.

Verbosity, in case you couldn't tell, refers to speech or writing with an excess of words.

It's true that, as a writer, word count is something that I am concerned with.  Each type of work, such as a novel or novella, has a word range that's more or less a sweet spot to strive for.  I need to reach these word counts, or at least the minimum required, to feel secure that the story will stand a good chance of being published in the category I meant for it to be published in.  After that, if it's above the word count, I don't mind.  To me, it's not a big deal, because some content will undoubtedly be cut in the editing process to streamline the story.  Some might be added, as well.

Basically, as long as I'm in the ballpark for a whatever type of work I'm doing, the story will be as long as it needs to be.  I'm not going to deliberately add words just to make something longer.  I guess, because of this, I'm not particularly verbose.  I like to add lots of detail and describe, but if I find myself getting lost in it, either when I'm actually writing it or when I'm reading it over later on, I'll cut it down.  I don't want my readers to get distracted or lost in a description, either.  I want to strike a happy medium so that I both reach my word count goals and have a descriptive piece, but not to be so wordy that I make poor Shelley fall asleep on her keyboard. 

I'm sure we've all read work by verbose authors.  Jane Austen comes to mind, as does Dickens, and even Tolkien.  They're all descriptive writers, but I think it's how they do it that makes or breaks their books.  I can't even get through a few pages of Austen's books without falling asleep, while Tolkien makes me hang on every word, envisioning Rivendell and Mordor in great detail.  Dickens is somewhere in between - he loses me, but then I get sucked back into the story.

How about you?  Do you tend more toward the wordy end of things?  Or are you a short and sweet writer?  Readers, which do you prefer to read?

xoxo Sarah

Monday, April 25, 2011

"U" is for Urban Dictionary

Ever walk by a group of teenagers (or anybody, really) and hear words that sound like English, but you know can't be, leaving you to wonder, "What the hell are they even talking about?  And get off my lawn, damn kids!"

Or ever hear someone use common words in a totally new and unusual way, making their original meaning irrelevant? Or hearing someone use an acronym and wondering if repeating it in front of your boss will get you fired or a promotion?

Yeah, it happens to all of us.

Enter Urban Dictionary, the every-person's personal Rosetta Stone for slang.  Just type in the word you're curious about (providing you know how to spell it, and have nerves of steel to find out what it actually means), and search.

Take nom for instance.  You might have heard someone say they were going to get noms or that they were in the middle of nomming when someone called them.  Curious, you'd just search, and find out that nom is an expression of eating, and derived from "om nom nom."  I use this word a lot myself.  I say that the cat was nomming on my shoelaces, or that something smells like delicious noms, or seems nommable.  There's even a little green monster in an app game for iPhone/Android who is named Om Nom.  The point of the game (which is called Cut the Rope) is that you feed Om Nom candy.  Makes sense, now that you know what nom means.

Since 1999 (so says their website), Urban Dictionary has helped millions define the world around them.  As a writer, I find the site to be fascinating.  I love learning new words, and you never know when using one might come in handy.  I strive to make my dialogue realistic when I write it, and for that, I often have to look things up.  Working with how real people speak adds realism to your stories and connects with your audience.

Any thoughts on Urban Dictionary?  Are you a fan?

xoxo Sarah

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"T" is for Technology

Writing technology, you are my friend.  You let me write, research, edit, and communicate with an ease that past writers never knew existed.

Let me back up a bit.  Writing technology varies from state-of-the-art to any-idiot-can-use-it.  And I use it all. My least used bits of writing technology are, sadly, the pen and paper, but that's because I have terrible handwriting and waste more time trying to decipher the hieroglyphs on the page that are meant to be English words than proves to be useful.  But, I do use them. I carry a notebook around with me, or at the very least have scrap paper and a (working) pen somewhere within reach so I can jot down notes, a line of dialogue, or a short scene idea and not risk forgetting it later on.  I know some writers also use their phones to record messages to themselves if they don't have paper available.  I know the iPhone and most likely other smart phones have voice recording capability (and no, I'm not talking about calling yourself from another phone and leaving yourself a voice mail, though you could do that, too.)  

I don't use a typewriter.  Period.  I had a terrible experience growing up with using one, something about being forced to type out a ridiculously long-ass paper for my crazy seventh grade English teacher.  Even though my mother kindly took over this Sisyphean task for me, I've been scarred for life.  Some writers, and I don't know any personally, but I'm sure they're out there, insist that this is the only true way to write.  I call bullshit on that, not to mention that it sounds snooty.  I say that as long as you're comfortable using something, write the way you want to.  Whether you're cranking your novel out on ten thousand Post-It notes with a Sharpie or clicking away on an iPad, it's all good to me.  Just don't make me edit your Post-It and Sharpie novel.  I'd just get them stuck all over my clothes.

My tech of choice is a laptop.  I use a wireless keyboard with mine because I like the gently curved configuration that's easier on my wrists and will hopefully stave off carpel tunnel for years to come.  I like the portability, too.  I can take it to the library with me, or when I travel somewhere.  I can't do that with a desktop computer.  Sadly, mine is on its way out after a good four-ish year run.  I've started urging it to do what it's supposed to do, often in loud, expletive-laden tirades which, unfortunately, have no effect on its processing speed.

I don't have a tablet computer (such as an iPad) but I'm not ruling it out for any future use.  I like the way the technology is changing, but I don't want to get one just to be stuck six months later holding something that's a dinosaur compared to the awesome new thing that just came out.  I'll wait a few years.  Prices always come down as well.

Technology also gives writers access to so much.  We have a whole world of research at our very fingertips, when before, we'd have to trek to the library and slog through volumes of unhelpful materials before finding one useful nugget of information.  The internet can even help you research your research.  Yeah.  Wrap your mind around that.  If you're looking for information on a topic, you can look up places to find more information.  It's worth looking things up, because the more real (or at least plausible) your novel is, the more people will like it.  Even if it's a fantasy work, doing your research pays off.  Another awesome thing: I can send my work off to Shelley in an email attachment and she can get it back to me at her usual lightening speed thanks to computers and the web.  Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the internet.  We salute you.

If you're a writer, what technology do you benefit from and use?  Even if you're not a writer, do you have a favorite piece of technology?

xoxo Sarah

Friday, April 22, 2011

"S" is for Subconscious

When I write, I usually have an outline of some sort.  Sometimes it's detailed; sometimes it's vague and just gives me a rough idea of what will happen.

So, when I get down to actually writing a piece, I have a good path to get from point A to point B.  But, often my subconscious takes over, and I've learned to let it do its thing.

Let me explain.

I'll be writing a scene, and then I'll be having a character or characters interact in a certain way or say something that won't make sense.  Maybe the action or information will seem unnecessary (to me), but then, later on, it will make perfect sense.

Like, "Of course having Bob leave his car behind now in Chapter 2 was a good idea.  Because in eight chapters, Bob's car will be wired with a bomb because of those mafia guys chasing him, so if he took his car in Ch.2, they couldn't wire it with the bomb, and then Carlos wouldn't be "eliminated" when he tries to steal Bob's car and gets blown up in a fiery inferno!  I'm a freakin' genius!"

Okay, so that's not exactly true.  But, when something like this happens, I'll usually just have the character run with something and see how it plays out.  If it turns out the scene is unnecessary or just doesn't fit or needs to be changed, I can take care of that later on in the editing process, or Shelley will point it out.  No biggie.  The weird thing is, is that for me, these scenes often fit right in with what I'm doing with the story.  Like I said before, most of the time I have the major details worked out, but the little things and tweaks a story gets aren't anywhere on my radar when I start to write.  In the above car-bombing example, it might have seemed strange to me to have Bob leave his car behind.  Maybe I know that the character likes driving, or thinks cabs are creepy.  Who knows.  But Bob wants to leave his damn car behind and have someone else take him where he needs to go, so that's what I'll work with.  Little do I know until later on that it was the best freakin' idea ever.

I've learned to trust my subconscious.  If my characters are telling me that they're doing something, by golly, I'll do my best to have them do it.  Even if it doesn't make sense at the time, chances are good it might later on.  I've had the unfortunate experience where I've told myself that an idea or scene is stupid when I come up with it, and then I don't write it out.  Well, then another scene comes up later and I'm stuck with how to link it with the rest of the story, but if I'd just written the first scene to begin with, it wouldn't be a problem at all.

How about you?  Does this happen to any of you lovely writers?  Or am I just crazy?

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"R" is for RWA

RWA, for those of you who don't know, is the Romance Writers of America.  It's a professional organization which can be found at and boasts over 10,000 members, including myself.  The RWA has local chapters in major cities where groups of writers meet, and there are even specialized chapters like Passionate Ink (I've mentioned them before...they're the chapter for erotic romance writers), Gothic Romance Writers, Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal, and Hearts through History, just to name a few.

Their mission is to help the professional interests of romance writers by assisting with networking and advocacy.  As with any profession, I think it's beneficial to have a professional organization to help you with whatever you're doing.

What I'm super excited about is going to their conference in New York City at the end of June and early July.  I'll be meeting the lovely Shelley, my critique partner, there, and we'll be exploring all that the writing world has to offer.  We've had a great time going over the massive list of workshops, which include classes about anything and everything relating to writing.  Whether it has to do with research, the craft and process of writing itself, how to get published, or a writer's life, they have it.

Some of the workshop titles include:
Hips Don't Lie: Body Language between the Sexes
My Agent Can't Give that Away!  
But Can I Still Feed My Kids: or, When Can I Quit the Day Job? 
The Dynamic Duo: How to Create a Winning Author/Agent Partnership 
Rejection: Making “No” Work for You.

This will be my first conference and experience in the "real" writing world, and I am looking forward to meeting some awesome people.  

If you're interested in going, I know that you have to be an RWA member first, but check out their website for more information.  I have a feeling this will be the best thing that's happened to my writing career so far!  
Me, in my fantasy, with the earnings from my first book. Don't judge.

Now, if I can only meet someone famous in an elevator, pitch the amazing book I've been slaving over, and walk away with a multi-million dollar contract.  

Hey, I can dream, though, right?  

I know I will have more posts relating to the conference as the clock ticks down.  Are any of you going?  Have you been to a writer's conference before?  Thoughts?   

xoxo Sarah

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Q" is for Quiet

I'll be honest, I can't write with noise.  I need peace and quiet.  Is that too much to ask for?

Sometimes, yes.

"HEY! Look at me!"
We have two cats who demand attention (loudly) if they don't get it (see this comic from the genius mind of Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal for a visual), and if I'm in the middle of an awesome scene, I don't particularly want to rub cute little cat tummies.  Any other time, yes, the tummies are irresistible.  But not when I'm writing.

Having a husband is also an automatic +10 noise factor.  Just by existing, he's noisy.  Just to clarify, because I'm aware I have a lot of male readers, I'm assuming this would be the same with having any human roommate, and, to be fair, I can tune most of what he gets into out like he's a giant white noise machine.  But not his Xbox 360.  No.  Not that thing.  For whatever reason, some weird part of my subconscious tunes in and listens to every gunshot, scream, and random Xbox Live trash-talking conversation between 30somethings living at home and 15 year olds who have higher voices than I do.  Why?  I have no idea.  Closing my office door doesn't seem to block out the sounds of Call of Duty: Revolutionary War: Washington vs Cornwallis  (yes, even though I have a vagina I am aware there is no such game; that is supposed to be a joke), and after much griping, bitching and moaning on my part, he now wears headphones.

Those things are a godsend.

But, to get away from every auditory distraction and demand on my attention, I'll often take off and head to the super-awesome library in the neighboring town to get some writing done.  They have free WiFi and I can do research while I'm there, but no one to bring me a turkey sandwich when I get caught up in what I'm doing, so it's mostly a win-win.

I'm also aware that some writers take inspiration from listening to different types of music as they make their way through scenes, while I'm only inspired to bang my head on the keyboard to drown out the noise.  I never write with music.  Well, that's not completely true.  I did work on some of my funnier blog entries to Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which is not funny at all.  Go figure.

I love music, I really do.  But I find it distracting, and the voices in my head aren't nearly as forthcoming if I'm drowning them out with something else.

How about you?  Do you write with music?  If yes, what?  If no, why not?

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"P" is for Passion

Yes, I've been told the subject of some of my writings is, uh, passionate, but that's not quite where I'm going with this post.  I looked up passion in the dictionary, and these two definitions really stood out to me: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music, OR the object of such a fondness or desire: Accuracy became passion with him.

While we as humans really enjoy telling other people that, "I'm really passionate about ____" to sound interesting (don't lie, you know you've done it), in reality, there are very few things we as individuals feel that strongly about.  It's rarely our jobs, though we may feel passionate about some aspects of what we do (i.e. helping people).  Our families, sure.  But what we really feel passionate about is more likely to be a hobby or interest we've had a love for for years, or even a cause close to your heart. 

People are considered lucky if they reach adulthood and still are able to continue doing something they're passionate about; almost like once they enter the "real world," being able to still be involved with things like that is a luxury.  

I suppose, in some ways, that's true.  For example, if volunteering is your passion, you might not have time to do it as often or even at all once you're (pick one or a few: working/married/have kids/own a house).  Instead, volunteering becomes something that, like all true passions, once you're not indulging in it, gnaws at you.  Something feels like it's missing; like you're not whole.  Sure, life may be great, but you don't feel complete.

This was how I felt (and how I still feel) about writing.  I loved to write stories all through elementary school.  I even liked writing essays in high school.  Sure, they were usually on something I didn't particularly care about, but the act of eloquently putting words on paper and even arguing a point made me feel good.  In college, I even edited friend's papers for their classes (and was called a female Simon Cowell for my brutal edits).  
"Your term paper on Pride and Prejudice was the written equivalent of elevator music. You won't be going to Hollywood.  It's a no from me.  Randy? Paula?"

And then, the real world closed in.  I was a Psychology major who graduated with honors and no stranger to hard work, but there was something particularly grueling about a "normal" job rather than that of being a college student.  I had a sucky commute to and from work (1 hour each way...all back roads), and by the time I would get home from work, all I wanted to do was curl up over a plate of food (hoping I'd absorb nutrients via osmosis) and die. I mean, go to bed.  Whatever.  And so life trudged on.  I experienced many happy and exciting things, like getting married and moving around the country, but there was always  

My husband's first deployment came back in 2008.  When trying to fill the seemingly endless hours when I wasn't doing one of the following: sleeping, eating, working, exercising, or hanging out with friends, I needed something to occupy my mind so I didn't go crazy wondering where he was, or how he was doing.  So, I started reading more.  A lot more.  I'd always loved reading, but this was ridiculous.  I read good stuff.  I read mediocre stuff.  I read bad stuff.  I read terrible stuff.  This led me to wonder, hell, if these people can get published, can I?  

My passion blinked its sleepy eyes and stretched, but didn't awaken fully.  Yet.

The cycle continued twice more whenever hubs would leave, and I started writing unpublishable shorts just to stretch my writing muscles.  Little exercises like this reaffirmed to me that there was something missing, and now I knew exactly what it was.

The summer of 2010 was when I really became aware of how much my passion for writing meant to me.  One night, my husband sat down with me, and I tearfully told him that I didn't think I could do what I was doing any longer, because what I really wanted to do was write for a living.  Now, don't get me wrong...I loved what I was doing.  But it was nowhere as fulfilling as writing was to me, and I hadn't even tried to seriously write anything.  I'll never forget that he looked at me, and told me that he thought I'd been "lost."  That I hadn't been happy, and that something wasn't right, but he wasn't sure what to do, because he knew whatever the problem was, it wasn't him.  He gave me his unconditional support to write my little heart out.  I couldn't believe that this one thing being absent from my life had been so obvious, but now I knew that I couldn't be without it ever again.  

No matter what life throws my way, I will always write in some way, shape or form.  

How about you...what's your passion? 

xoxo Sarah

Monday, April 18, 2011

"O" is for Optimism

Okay, first of all, I'm not really an optimist.  But I'm not a pessimist, either.  On the scale of "glass is half full" to "glass is half empty," I'm more likely to just notice there's liquid in there at all.  Whether it's rat poison or a delicious margarita will remain to be seen.  I don't know...maybe I analyze stuff too much.
Great example of an optimist and pessimist.

For me, it depends on the situation.  Of course I'd rather make the best of things.  My husband and I have a cat who is absolutely adorable and loves to cuddle, especially when you're wearing something soft and fuzzy.  I have a bathrobe that, when I wear it, she always begs to curl up on my lap.  The problem is that when she relaxes, she tends to relax everything, and she'll poop just a little, which, of course, I don't notice until she's gotten her snuggle time in.  It goes without saying that this robe gets washed a lot.  But, I look on the bright side - she's soft and lovey, and every time she climbs up onto my lap, I hope that this will be the time I will not get pooped on.  

However, if everything seems to be going to hell in a handbasket in my life at the moment, I'll obviously be a bit more negative.  I think most people are this way: not entirely optimistic or pessimistic, but simply leaning one way or the other.

It doesn't mean either kind of person is easy to deal with, though.  

Just like eternally optimistic Linda who pukes rainbows in my "M" is for Mixed Metaphor post a few days ago, there are people who do the opposite.  We all know those people who always put a negative spin on everything.  No matter what's happening, everything is gloom and doom.  Woe is me and all that shit.  I'm absolutely sure all of us have at least one relative or friend like this.  You know the one.  The one who, if you're driving with them somewhere, you want to eject at a high speed from your car out in the middle of nowhere just so you don't have to listen to them bitch and moan anymore.  But, of course, you can't do that.  No, not because it's probably illegal, but because you know that person will just come back and whine about you abandoning them out there, and you'll hear about nothing else from them for the rest of your life.  Negative people hold grudges like nobody's business.  Fact.  

It pays to understand both types, though, because if you write, you'll undoubtedly encounter a character who thinks one way or the other.  And it might very well be the way you don't think.  It can be hard to see the other side of the coin, but it's worth it to try.  

"Gonna get me a prom queen!"
I suppose as a writer, I have to try to stay positive.  Why?  I'm doing something I absolutely love, right?    Because there is so much negativity built into the business.  We automatically know and expect to be rejected when we query our work to agents or publishers.  Hell, even Harry Potter was rejected something like twelve times.  Definitely double digits.  It's like you're the nerdy guy, and you're trying to get the popular girl to go to prom with you.  Can it happen?  Sure.  But you might have to try very hard at it, and you should expect to get shot down.  

Even though it's not, criticism from your critique partner (or anyone, really) can get you down.  Nobody likes to be told that something is unclear, or isn't working, particularly something you've slaved over for months and now have to go back and fix.  No matter how nice Shelley is about telling me something is off, it can sting a little.  But that's normal; I get over it, realize she's right, and get back to work.  The key is to use it as a learning experience and better yourself.  I know my writing isn't perfect, and I'd be incredibly disappointed if I had a critique partner who thought the sun shines out my ass.  You just need to develop a thicker skin, brush it off, and continue on your way.  I imagine my work won't always get glowing reviews from other people, either.  Same principle.  

While writing involves some negativity, there are many positive aspects to it as well.  Other writers and bloggers are incredibly supportive of each other.  I can't even imagine how many times I've seen writers congratulating each other on Twitter for putting out another book, pimping out each other's work via their blogs, or sending new readers your way to help out (thank you, Alex!).  The supportive atmosphere and welcoming people outweigh the negative, for me, at least.  

That's about it for today.  If you're curious, as of right now, no, my "P" post won't be on pessimism.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do a load of laundry.  It's cool here today, and I have a feeling I'll need to wear that fuzzy robe tonight, which, of course, means I'll be doing laundry tomorrow, too.  But it's worth it.

xoxo Sarah

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"N" is for Narrator

And now for something completely different!  An actual informative post, courtesy of me.

If you're writing a story, you need someone (or something) to tell it.  That's a fact.  That person or thing is called a narrator.  A story's narrator can be a character within the story, or even the author as an all-knowing presence.  The narrator also functions within the world of the story that's been created.

There are a few ways to tell a story; these were actually pretty confusing for me when I started writing, and can still trip me up.  For brevity's sake, I'm only going to touch on the following types of narrators:  First Person, Second Person, and the billions of kinds of Third Person.  If anyone's curious or wants more information, search Wikipedia.  Though not all their information is correct all the time, stuff like this is pretty reliable.

First Person
First person narration is told from the point of view of one person at a time, speaking for and about themselves.  You'll be able to tell a story is in first person because you'll see the narrator referring to themselves as "I". The audience will see the plot and actions from the point of view of this character, including their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on what is happening.

One thing to keep in mind when using first person, is that it's a very skewed perspective.  Everything that happens in the story is filtered through your character's eyes; if your character misinterprets something, that's what the reader is given.  So, not everything in a first person story should necessarily be taken as fact.  Some authors hop narrator to narrator (head to head) when writing in first person, and though uncommon, it's not a bad thing.  You just need to keep in mind that you can't have a scene in a first person story that the narrator is not in, because they won't witness it.

Second Person
This is probably the least common way to narrate the story, because the narrator is referred to by second-person pronouns, namely, "You."  Because this is a little tough to wrap your head around, here's an example from Wikipedia's entry on second person narrative.

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

Frankly, in my opinion, second person is awkward to read, and makes you feel like you're reading an instruction manual.  It makes it seem as the "you" being referred to is the reader, and that's odd to me, and apparently a lot of other people agree because it's not used that often.

Moving on...

Third Person
There are a few methods of third person narration, so I'll break them down as easily as I can.

Third Person Limited
Here, the reader experiences the story through the senses of one character.  This is almost always the main character, and has similar limitations to first person narrative: the narrator can't tell the reader things that he or she doesn't know.  Literary example: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway, and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Third Person Objective
With this type of narration, the story is looked at objectively by the narrator.  It's often referred to as the "fly on the wall" or "camera lens" approach, and only records observable actions, not interpretations.  This is most commonly associated with news articles, scientific journals and biographical documents.  It's also called third person dramatic because the narrator is like the audience of a has no effect on the plot and is an innocent bystander, watching the show happen.

Third Person Omniscient
A common form of narration, "the reader is presented the story by a narrator with an overarching, godlike perspective, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, regardless of the presence of certain characters, including everything all of the characters are thinking and feeling. 'Third-person omniscient' should not be confused with "third person limited" or 'third person intimate' in which the narration is restricted to relating the thoughts, feelings about knowledge of a 'point of view character.'" 
 Wikipedia explained it very well in a nutshell.  Examples from popular works include The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas AdamsHitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  

Also, unlike first person and third person limited, third person omniscient is the type of narration that is least capable of being biased.  It is the most objective way for narrator to tell the tale.  

How does a writer know which type of narrator to use?  I'm not sure.  I always let the story choose for me.  If one sticks out to me before I begin writing it, then I'll use that, but sometimes I actually have to write short pieces of the same story in first person and in third person limited to see which one fits better.  Allow the story to drive which narrator you use; don't try to cram your story into one that won't fit.  It's like square pegs and round holes, and the end result could be a disaster. Personally, I like the biased perspective and intimate thoughts you get with first person, but that's personal preference.  

Well, that should do it.  As much as I like posting about fact-y things, I can't resist throwing in a little funny.

So here you go: 

Friday, April 15, 2011

"M" is for Mixed Metaphor

Ah, the good 'ole metaphor.  We learn about metaphors and similes in school, but as a refresher, they're both means of comparing something to something else.  Similes use "like" or "as" to make the comparison, and metaphors do not.

Example of a simile: Whenever I talked to Linda, she was so disgustingly cheerful it was like she vomited rainbows all over my face.  

Example of a metaphor:   Love is a battlefield.  

Nope, couldn't find a good picture for that one that didn't involve Pat Benatar.

Anyway, you get the point.  Both are often used in literature, though comparisons like these are most effective when used sparingly.

Though I've found that they're just as effective when they're royally effed up by the author (maybe on purpose) or by the speaker.  Then they become what's known as the super-awesome "mixed metaphor."

Mixed metaphors are what happens when someone smushes two comparisons together, making a ridiculously illogical comparison.  They happen to everyone, and have hilarious results.  Sometimes what the speaker or author meant isn't changed by the incorrect phrase, and sometimes it's clear as mud.

My personal all-time favorite that I use in real life is, "It's not rocket surgery."  Obviously this little phrase is a mash-up of, "It's not rocket science," and, "It's not brain surgery," yet the meaning is still clear, at least in this case. Here, courtesy of this article, are some other mixed metaphors.  Some still make sense, some, well, not so much.

"So now what we are dealing with is the rubber meeting the road, and instead of biting the bullet on these issues, we just want to punt." (Chicago Tribune, cited by The New Yorker, August 13, 2007)

"Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military's barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore." (Frank Rich, The New York Times, July 18, 2008)

"Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright stepped up to the plate and called a foul." (Catherine Crier, The Case Against Lawyers, 2002)

"Her saucer-eyes narrow to a gimlet stare and she lets Mr. Clarke have it with both barrels." (Anne McElvoy, London Evening Standard, Sep. 9, 2009)

"That's awfully thin gruel for the right wing to hang their hats on." (MSNBC, Sep. 3, 2009)  

Some of those actually gave me a headache trying to figure them out.  But don't hesitate to enjoy a good mixed small doses, they might even be what your story needs.  You can use them to break tension, to show a character's personality, or just to be creative, especially in dialogue.  No one gets things right 100% of the time when speaking, so why should your characters be any different?  Most of all, have fun with them.  

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"L" is for Lead

It was a dark and stormy night.  

This little sentence, though poor Snoopy never seems to get past that section, is part of what's called a lead in writing.  

A lot of people associate a lead with a news story, but in reality, nearly every work of writing has a lead.  As for a technical definition, a lead is considered to be either the opening paragraph of something, or even just the very first sentence.  It should grab the reader's attention and give them information in a clear, concise, and interesting manner.  It leads the reader into the story; it leads the reader to want to read more.  Hopefully, anyway.  It should, at the very least, capture your interest and make you want to turn the page; it shouldn't make you want to throw the book across the room and run away from it like you're a chihuahua and Paris Hilton is coming to adopt you.  

"Help me, please!"
A good lead will "hook" the reader and get their immediate attention, and there are a variety of ways authors do this.  A lot of us think about our story, and consider how we'd try to interest our best friend in reading it (aside from the fact that they're obligated to do so because of the best friend title).  

We also give a lot of thought to where the story should start.  What's the most interesting part of the story?  What information is essential to give to the reader initially so that they'll want to keep reading?  Using an interesting fact, well-placed action verbs, or a humorous or provocative perspective can help with all of this.  Maybe even throw in a little conflict.  But, the thing to remember, is to attempt not to be cliche.  Sorry, Snoopy.  I'd rethink that lead if I were you.  

This article here is very helpful for learning the ins and outs of lead-writing.  Often, the first sentence is the hardest one to get down.  

Here are a few leads from successful works: 

''If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.'' ~The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

''Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.'' ~Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.  My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress.  She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did.  This is the day of the reaping." ~The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

"For the love of Jesus on a Velociraptor, tell me what happens next!
I had trouble picking some leads to show you because there were so many good ones, but these three really grab you. You want to know more!  Who is this smart-ass, snarky narrator, and what doesn't he want to tell us?  Who are the Dursleys, why do we need to know where they live, and why are they so happy to be normal?  Why is the narrator sleeping with her sister, and for God's sake, what is a reaping, because it sure doesn't sound like a good thing if it gives her sister nightmares!  

Personally, I like to start my stories in the middle of something.  Some action is taking place, and I like to plop the reader down right in the middle of it.  Something's going down, and I want the reader sucked in as quickly as possible; I want them to feel like they can't not find out what's going to happen next.  Of course, I make sure to give them essential information, but I try my best to keep everything short and sweet.  There will be plenty of time later for explanations, and I make sure I give that to the reader as well.  

What kind of lead grabs you?  Or, if you're a writer, how do you like to write your leads?   What's going to get you interested in an article/entry/short story/novel?  Tell me!

xoxo Sarah

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"K" is for Kiss

"K" for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is kiss.

No, not these guys ---->

<---- Something more like this.

Smooches.  Smacks.  Pecks.  Puckering up.

Kisses can mean so many different things: Goodbye.  Hello.  It's not you, it's me.  Yes, I will marry you.  I'm trying to distract you from what's really happening.  Ew, yeah, you really need to brush your teeth.

It also matters who is kissing.  Is it a kiss by Aunt Sally that a child tries to shy away from because she always smells like cabbage and hugs too hard?

Is it a spontaneous gesture by a young sailor, who grabs a pretty woman and bends her back in a kiss to celebrate the end of the war?

Is it between two movie stars in one of the most iconic movie kisses of all time?

Are the kisser and kissee in a Disney movie?

All of these kisses come across differently, and require little description...there are pictures, after all, which doesn't require the viewer to imagine how they appear or do much interpretation.  When writing, it's similar, but the author has to create the visual for the reader to allow their imagination to take over.  As with any action, kisses can arguably come out just as powerfully in writing as on screen.  We've all read books in which we squeal when the couple you've been rooting for kisses for the first time, or groan when the two people you don't want together lock lips.  It's all in the word choice.  The writer (who is usually following some sort of plot or outline) has to go along with the feel of the story.  Who is kissing?  Is it a romantic situation, or between relatives?  Hell, do the characters even like each other at all?  What does the kiss feel like from the narrator's perspective?  Is it soft/hard/possessive/painful/scratchy/toothy/drooly/sloppy/dainty?

We (as a reader) know if it's a "good" kiss if we can feel it from the narrator's perspective.  Did we feel violated when the narrator's ex-boyfriend kissed her at that party?  Did we swoon when the narrator's boyfriend proposed and instead of saying "yes" she laid one on him?  Did we cringe when the narrator's neighbor lets her dog lick her full on the lips (sorry, but that really grosses me out)?

Do you have a favorite literary kiss?

p.s. If you like my blog, please give a follow!

xoxo Sarah